8:03 am | August 22, 2019 | Go to Source | Author:
Omar Figueroa Sr. has been a mailman for the past 23 years. After he finishes his route, he trains fighters. Like many Mexican Americans, he grew up a boxing fan of all-time great Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez as one of his idols. Omar Sr. hoped that one day, if he ever had a son, he would become a professional boxer.
So when Omar Jr. was a child, the father began to train the son, who eventually did become a top professional boxer. He won a lightweight world title in 2013, engaged in some thrilling fights and was 28-0-1 before suffering his first defeat — a decision to Yordenis Ugas in a welterweight title eliminator on July 20 in one of the featured bouts on the Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman undercard.
While Omar Sr. was busy molding Omar Jr. into a future world titleholder, Brandon Figueroa, Omar Sr.’s younger son, also became interested in boxing.
From the time he was about 6 years old, Brandon tagged along with his father and brother to the gym. Once Brandon started to train, Omar Sr. did not view him in the same light as Omar Jr. He did not even want Brandon to fight. He thought he was “too skinny” and “wimpy” to be a boxer. But Brandon kept coming to the gym, kept working on his craft and improving.
“I think the mental toughness and the wanting to be as good as his brother is what drove [Brandon],” Omar Sr. said. “Sometimes he would spar and get beat up but he was just relentless. And after a while he started training harder and he was going in there with bigger kids, older than him and heavier. He was trying to show me he was like his brother, just as tough. I couldn’t believe it.
“I didn’t pay much attention to Brandon because I was so concentrated on Omar. Brandon wasn’t as good as Omar, even academically. All my attention was with Omar and [Brandon] wanted to prove that he was as good as his brother or better. And you know what? He did it with hard work. That’s what I admire from Brandon. He’s tough.”
Omar Sr. recalled the moment he finally believed that Brandon showed the potential to become a professional fighter. Brandon was 15 when a Mexican pro — Omar doesn’t recall his name — came to their gym to work out.
“He’s not ‘Omar’s brother’ no more. He’s known as Brandon. Brandon is doing things better. Brandon has more discipline than his brother. Brandon is interim world champion at 22. I don’t think he’s the little brother no more.” Omar Figueroa Sr.
“This guy was like 22 and Brandon was 15 and the other guy was like 15 pounds heavier than Brandon and he had some pro fights in Mexico,” Omar Sr. said. “He came to my gym and he had no one to spar so I said, ‘You know what? You can go with Brandon.’ I said if he’s beating up on my son, we’ll just stop the fight. Guess what? My son stopped him. The guy said, ‘You have a world champion on your hands.'”
Fast forward to 2019, and Brandon Figueroa is breaking out of his older brother’s shadow, on the verge of big things in boxing after taking apart the experienced Yonfrez Parejo in April.
Figueroa dominated their fight and made Parejo retire on his stool after the eighth round to win a vacant interim junior featherweight world title.
“I never cared about being in his shadow,” Brandon said of his older brother. “I’m the kind of guy who didn’t mind it. I knew little by little I was going to get where I was going to get regardless. I would rather be in the shadow and put the work in and when it’s time to shine, it’s time to shine. I never cared for the limelight. I look up to my brother and little by little, here I am.
“My brother gives me advice — don’t be scared, always go in there and give it your all. Always work the body, be relentless, be fearless. Being the little brother, I always looked up to my older brother and took after him and his mentality and the style he brought into the ring.”
The 22-year-old Figueroa (19-0, 14 KOs) is set to return to the ring to make his first title defense, against Javier Chacon (29-4-1, 9 KOs), 38, in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on Saturday (Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes, 10 p.m. ET) at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg, Texas, which is just outside Figueroa’s hometown of Weslaco, Texas.
Figueroa said he doesn’t feel any additional pressure because he’s fighting at home. He said he embraces it. That he has come this far despite being an afterthought at the gym when he was a kid is not lost on him. He said that even as a youngster he was dedicated to training and had “a passion” for boxing.
“My brother definitely had the talent, I didn’t,” Brandon said. “I had to work for my position to be even close to his level. But I never gave up. The dedication and passion took me to where I am now. I honestly think he’s still better than me, but I have done the hard work, late at night, early in the morning, that people don’t see. Hard work beats talent and I think that’s where I’m at right now.”
Omar Sr. is happy to have been wrong, and agrees with Brandon’s evaluation.
“He’s not ‘Omar’s brother’ no more,” he said. “He’s known as Brandon. Brandon is doing things better. Brandon has more discipline than his brother. Brandon is interim world champion at 22. I don’t think he’s the little brother no more. I think Brandon is for real.”
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